A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Fall, 2016 | Number 4, Volume 30

Study investigates effects of maternal flu infection, vaccine

A large-scale study concludes that maternal influenza infection or flu vaccination during pregnancy does not increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children, although the research raises possible concerns about first-trimester vaccination. 

Ousseny Zerbo and colleagues analyzed information collected on 196,929 children born at Kaiser Permanente Northern California between 2000 and 2010. Reviewing data on the children’s mothers, the researchers identified those who either contracted the flu or had flu shots during pregnancy. 

The researchers found that 1,400 mothers developed the flu during pregnancy, and 45,231 received an influenza vaccination. They also identified 3,101 children who received a diagnosis of autism. 

The researchers say, “We found no association between ASD risk and influenza infection during pregnancy or influenza vaccination during the second to third trimester of pregnancy.” However, they say, “there was a suggestion of increased ASD risk among children whose mothers received influenza vaccinations early in pregnancy, although the association was insignificant after statistical correction for multiple comparisons.” 

The researchers conclude, “While we do not advocate changes in vaccine policy or practice, we believe that additional studies are warranted to further evaluate any potential associations between first-trimester maternal influenza vaccination and autism.”


“Association between influenza infection and vaccination during pregnancy and risk of autism spectrum disorder,” Ousseny Zerbo, Yinge Qian, Cathleen Yoshida, Bruce H. Fireman, Nicola P. Klein, and Lisa A. Croen, JAMA Pediatrics, November 28, 2016 (free online). Address: Ousseny Zerbo, Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente, 2000 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612, [email protected]


“No association between mother’s fl u in pregnancy and increased child autism risk,” Infection Control Today, November 2016.